2018 will go down in the annuals of sawmilling in South Africa as one of the tougher years on record, shares Roy Southey, executive director of Sawmilling South Africa (SSA).

In conversation with another old miller, he informed me that not since 1989 had he experienced a tougher year in the industry, and he felt that 2019 might turn out to be just as stressful. This is character building as they say, so let’s just get on with it, it can’t last forever.

The South African sawmilling sector felt the sting in 2018. Credit: Creative Commons

If we look back on 2018 we will remember it for the year of the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which as you all know has now after months and months of speculation, been signed into law by president Ramaphosa.

All association members will by now have received their copy of Letsema Consulting’s report on the light gauge steel industries expansion into the roof truss business. This is concerning and we sawmillers will need to soon come up with a counter punch.

Then you will all remember the submission that we made to Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism with respect to the Air Quality Act (No. 39 of 2004). We had come to agreement with the department on the revision to listed activity subcategory 9.5, only to find that when the revision was published in the Government Gazette it read differently and is causing much confusion. This saga is therefore not over yet and our engagement with the department on the matter will continue into 2019.

2018 also saw us pressurising the Forestry Council to make sure that South African Forestry Companies Limited (SAFCOL) were given BBBEE facilitator status by the Department of Trade and Industry to enhance those mills who purchase logs from SAFCOL. To date the minister has not yet given his approval and so this fight is also still ongoing.

News from Dianne Randal with regard to the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing SETA sawmill skills development program is that the various courses continue to be conscientiously developed and all four will be complete and ready for implementation by mid-2019.

Let’s not forget the recent fires in the Southern Cape and the loss of yet more commercial forest land, but most serious of all was the total destruction of our much loved and respected Geelhoutvlei Timbers and the loss of Dave Metlerkamp’s beautiful new home.

Our thoughts are still with the now stranded staff of the mill. If there is anyone in the industry who is in a position to assist with job relocation for the more that 400 left without employment please contact us here at SSA.

So as usual please keep cutting straight and drying flat and the New Year will hold no fear.